While it’s been wet lately, it’s nothing compared to what Iowans lived through 10 years ago. 1991 and ’92 had been wet years, and by the spring of ’93 — the professionals were predicting big trouble ahead. The Mississippi River swelled, and Davenport — which doesn’t have a flood wall — got swamped so badly President Clinton made a 4th of July visit to view the damage.. The Missouri flooded its banks, too, and in Hamberg, floodwaters threatened the shelter established for the town’s flood victims, so they had to move again to higher ground. Two major rivers meet in the state’s capitol city, Des Moines became the largest city in the country to be without drinking water. Former Governor Terry Branstad says he remembers getting a call at 1:30 in the morning, and having his staff tell him the Des Moines Water Works would be flooded. He says by noon the next day, the National Guard had set up water distribution sites in Des Moines-area supermarket parking lots. Branstad says they thought there’d be a shortage of bottled water, but beer companies started canning water. He says a company based in the south sent the state a bunch of canoe paddles, at no charge. Branstad says without water to flush, folks had to use temporary toilets. Branstad says the state had to order a “whole bunch of Kybos” — the brandname of a particular portable toilet. They arrived unassembled and he says he found out how quickly state employees could go to work. During the disaster, Branstad toured the state, viewing flood damage for himself. Branstad remembers a trip he made to Okoboji on July 9th, 1993. Branstad says there was a thunderstorm, so they had to land in Storm Lake to wait it out before making their landing at the Okoboji airport, where he saw a National Guard helicopter sitting in a foot and a half of water. Branstad says the airport’s on higher ground, so that’s just an example of how saturated the area was. Branstad says, though, that the worst of times brought out the best in people. It was the largest natural disaster in the state’s history, affecting all 99 counties.
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